Decoration - Rustic Style

Traditional hanging baskets can enhance your rustic home. © Michelle Chaplow
Traditional hanging baskets can enhance your rustic home.

Rustic Styled Decoration

The charming rusticity many associate with the "typical" Andalusian home is more realistically derived from the sprawling farm houses known here as cortijos - a luxury traditionally belonging to a very small minority of wealth land owners. Today, while not everyone has anything near a cortijo, the Spanish "country style" is a popular decorating theme, one that can be as easy or hard on your pocketbook as you like.

The beauty of rustic decoration in Andalucía is that often the most easily available local materials are all you need to re-create your dream. Rustic tiles, for starters, come in all shapes and sizes, as well as price ranges. What's more, if you choose to tile an entire home in one type of rustic tile you are sure to obtain a discount, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how a basic terracotta can be combined with a wide array of colours to create very different ambiences throughout the house.

If, on the other hand, you wish to use a wide variety of country-style tiles, you will find many designs, including beautiful hand painted pieces. A word of advice though, no matter how charming DIY tiling might appear, those without experience might be better off hiring a professional. This is because, no matter how rustic the results of your work, improperly laid tiles will surely be a source of future headaches as they drop off the wall or crack on the floor.

Standard bricks and mortar are also a favourite source of decoration for real country-style living. Use the thin bricks without the cement covering, or "enfoscado" as it is called in Spanish, to create dividing walls, arches, fireplaces, planter boxes and other interior features with a rugged look. Locally produced marble and granite are also available for creative projects - at surprisingly low cost.

Iron is another key ingredient in local homes with a traditional look. Many shops throughout this area sell a wide variety of iron furnishings and accessories as well as window and door grates. If you are looking for a custom design, sketch it to the best of your ability and then order from a shop in town or head for your local industrial park ("polígono industrial", in Spanish) and ask for "un taller de cerrajería", where you will probably get a better deal.

Antiques and antique look-a-likes can be found either at traditional antique stores or at the mercadillos which each town hosts once or twice a week, usually at the fairgrounds. If you are especially serious about tracking down antiques and building materials from old homes, you would do well to dedicate your weekends to visiting small pueblos and country areas and chatting up the natives for information about good finds - an excellent reason to work on your Spanish!

Moving away from antiques and into the realm of country furnishings, there are two towns famous for producing a Spanish "Provencal" style furniture; Ronda in Málaga province and Lucena in Cordoba. In both cases the pieces have a distinct country aire. However, there are other types of furniture available in this category and they can be found either by hunting for examples in conventional furniture shops or by going directly to foreign import stores or large warehouses in industrial parks. For instance, El Viso industrial park just outside Málaga has a warehouse with a very nice price/quality relationship called "Rustica" that is located just past the entrance, about 200 metres beyond Café Castel.

Regarding furniture, it is helpful to be aware that Spanish furniture shops, whether in town or in industrial parks, seldom sell items directly off the floor. Instead you must order from what you see and then wait - anywhere from one to several months - for the furniture to arrive. Furthermore, what you see is seldom all that is available. In fact, there is often ample opportunity to customise your order. Therefore, if you see something close to what you like, ask a sales person to show you the manufacturer's catalogue in order to discover all the possible sizes, colours and other options available.

Finally, the patio or terrace should receive special attention as this is one of the most important "rooms" in a local home. It is here where you will spend hot summer afternoons, hopefully under the shade of a lattice laced in grapevines. Other plants that are traditionally used to flavour country homes in this area are jasmine and orange trees, both of which sweeten the air and refresh the soul.

Because so much of local tradition is based on an Arab legacy, water is also a key feature in homes. Beautifully tiled fountains are produced in local factories in many shapes and sizes. Surely you can find the one that suits your taste and adds the sweet sounds of rushing, flowing waters to quiet ambience in your peaceful patio.

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